Joachim’s (mis)adventures in activism in Malaysia continue. This time, he writes in the hope of receiving more blessings of purple bananas from Lord Bobo within his lifetime.
Blessed are the hipster activists, for theirs is a cup of coffee at an Indie Cafe after a hard day’s work. Or so they say.
Well, that is precisely what I was doing. I had just gone for Yakin! at the Annexe Gallery and decided to head to a cafe nearby for refreshment. Yakin! seems to be a heartening non-partisan group wanting to instill more faith in our country and its future but I remain skeptical of how mere optimism can inspire change. This of course is an entirely different article for another day.
As I entered the cafe, I saw a familiar face that I could not place. So I went up to him, introduced myself and asked him where we may have met before. Apparently, he had heard me speak at a Jom Pantau event where I had shared my voter-observation experience during the 10th Sarawak State Elections, as well as a few other events.
I breathed a sigh of relief. He could not be Special Branch (SB) then. Of course, it helped that my SB-radar was not tingling. (You develop one after years of activism in Malaysia.) If he was, he was doing a fine job of keeping his vibe and odour in.
After the initial salutations, we naturally talked about the state of politics in Malaysia and one thing he said has stuck to my mind ever since:
“You know who I hate most? These so-called Political Hipsters!”
I remember raising my eyebrows when he uttered those cutting words. In my heart, I definitely “terasa sedikit lar”. After all, I have been frequently labelled a ‘Hipster’ or an ‘Activist’ or worse still, ‘Hipster Activist’. But I kept an open mind and asked:
“Political Hipsters? What do you mean?”
“You know those guys who are too ‘cool’ or too ‘hip’ to get involved in politics? Even if it is just to cast that one vote.”
“Yeah! They are just like those people who watch football and shout at their televisions.”
“Um…like armchair critics?”
“No, worse. They take themselves out of the game* before it has even begun! They think it is futile to get involved because both parties will at some point be corrupted by big businesses or blinded by power…”
Well, he was right in my opinion. Not only do many Malaysians use this lazy excuse not to do anything, they also apologise for the system they prop up through their work. The problem with their argument is not just uninspiring and lazy, but it reflects a failure to see the wood from the trees. A system eventually corrupts itself – that is the key message I take out of the recent Batman Trilogy – and more often than not, we need to reboot the system. Each reboot hopefully raises the bar for the next system. Think of it as version 2.0 of a software or game that has to be improved or upgraded from time to time. A system so caught up and fixated with everything it has created would be unable to change and provide what a dynamic group of people ultimately need.
Yes, I am under no illusion that the next system or government that comes into place may have its problems and be imperfect. But the unravelling of one will give way to new opportunities for improvement for the next. That is why people have to rise up and constantly keep the system honest and true to its principles. To ensure it governs us well.
To borrow a game anology – that is, if you are still unconvinced about lifting your little pinky to influence the upcoming general election:
If it is half-time and you are playing for the home team, the score is 1-1 or 0-2 to the away team, do you walk off the pitch and give up?
No, you do not. You do not back down but show them what you are made of. You do not back down because you have a chance to show them that they are wrong about you. To do less would be a cowardly and uninspired. A betrayal of yourself. Well, in some ways, it is. After all, a choice to do nothing, while a choice, is a denial of those best bits in you.
Football analogy aside, I am reminded of the saying:
” Ultimately, we deserve the government we get.”
If you are not doing anything about the system, if you are in fact subscribing the system, you are therefore a part of the problem.
Ultimately, we deserve the system we asked for with – in this case – our inaction. One where accountability, transparency and sustainability are only buzzwords bandied about by politicians and leaders who really are lining their pockets with riches at the rakyat‘s expenses. If you are not going to do anything about a system that is rotten, then you will perpetuate its weaknesses. Nothing will change for another five decades.
Be a part of the solution! If you are a real Political Hipster (here, I suggest a new definition), you will embrace your role as the guardian of the nation. And you would do so with an enthusiasm and ethic so inspiring and tangible, that doing something positive for the nation and its political scene becomes hip. And it will not be because you say it is so. It will just become that way because more people will find that taking affirmative action can be fulfilling, rewarding, fruitful (think long-term) and fun. So if you are 21 and you have registered to vote, go out and vote. Stay in the night before so you can wake up early and make it to the polling station on time. After all, it is a once-in-5 years opportunity to express an opinion, to influence change. Do not take yourself out of the game before full-time.
Blessed are those who complain but do not do anything about it, for you deserve what you get, I say. It is really not hip to admonish with your mouth while your hand stirs nothing but a cup of burnt long black.
*Talking about games – have you heard of Politiko? No!? Which rock have you been living under? It is only the best and only Card Game based on Malaysian politics ever! Get it here: www.loyarbarang.com/shop/misc/politiko-card-game/
(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Susana Fernandez, source: http://bit.ly/10rTkZN)